Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles WRs coach still thinks Nelson Agholor has 1st-round talent

Eagles WRs coach still thinks Nelson Agholor has 1st-round talent

New Eagles receivers coach Mike Groh has known about Nelson Agholor for over half a decade. 

Groh was the receivers coach at Alabama from 2011-12, the exact time Agholor, a five-star prospect out of Tampa, Florida, was making his college decision. Agholor went to USC and ended up being a first-round pick a few years later. 

What did Groh think of Agholor back then? 

"Well, we recruited him at Alabama," Groh said Friday, breaking into a smile. "We thought he was pretty good. And still think that."

Groh, 45, was hired this offseason to replace former wideouts coach Greg Lewis, the only casualty from Doug Pederson's first staff. Perhaps part of the reason Lewis was let go was that the young receivers in the building — Agholor included — failed to improve throughout the 2016 season. 

From the time Agholor was drafted by the Eagles with the 20th pick in 2015, the USC product has been a disappointment. Thrust into a starting role, Agholor simply hasn't lived up to his draft status and last year things got so bad, Pederson was forced to give him a mental health game day during the season.

Groh wasn't here for any of that. He was with the Bears in 2015 and with the Rams in 2016. All he knows of Agholor as a pro is the tape he's watched from last season and from seeing Agholor on the practice field during OTAs and minicamp this spring. 

"Nelson Agholor is a first-round pick and has first-round talent," Groh said. 

This spring, Agholor has actually shown it. 

Now, every Agholor story that has come out of spring practices has been and should be met with a great level of apprehension. Until Agholor actually shows he can perform in a game, skepticism is just. 

But all Groh can go on is what he's seen this spring. And what he's seen has been pretty darn good. 

"I've been really pleased with the spring that he had," Groh said. "He had a really productive spring. He attacked the spring. He's shown up and made an impact at virtually every practice. Really excited about where he's at right now."

Agholor, 24, was the standout star of this year's spring practices. And after Jordan Matthews was forced out of practice with a knee injury, Agholor took over in the slot and impressed even more. Groh really likes Agholor's versatility, saying it makes him valuable in the Eagles' offense. 

With Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and Jordan Matthews on the team, Agholor seems destined to fill a backup role this season, which might be better for him — a chance to develop without the bright lights a starting job brings with it. That spotlight really got to Agholor last year and his confidence was clearly shaken. 

"I think confidence is a result of demonstrative performance," Groh said. "The more positive results he has in practice, I think that will elevate his confidence. He's had a really good spring from that standpoint."

From the time Groh arrived, he's been working on the basics with Agholor, although he mentioned that not specific to the former first-rounder. Agholor spent his spring tracking his drops during OTAs, a practice that is uniquely Nelson Agholor, concerned — perhaps overly — about the details. 

The Eagles hope it works. They hope Groh is the guy to help get some return out of their former first-round pick. 

On Friday, Groh echoed something he used to hear from coaching great Bill Parcells: "By the third year, a guy ought to tell you who he's going to be at this level." 

The clock is ticking. This season will be Year 3 for Agholor. 

Eagles-Dolphins practice 10 observations: Alshon Jeffery's big day

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Eagles-Dolphins practice 10 observations: Alshon Jeffery's big day

Training camp is technically over, but the Dolphins are in town for two joint practices before Thursday's preseason game at the Linc.

The Eagles and Dolphins held a lengthy pre-solar eclipse practice under the full power of the sun on Monday morning into the afternoon.

Here are 10 observations from the joint session:

1. *Clears throat* injuries: Brandon Graham and Jordan Hicks left early on Monday. No word about Hicks yet, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Graham suffered a strained tricep that wasn't considered serious. With Graham inside, rookie Derek Barnett took first-team reps at left defensive end. And second-year player Joe Walker filled in for Hicks because Najee Goode wasn't practicing, either.

Barnett returned to practice on Monday after missing Sunday with what Doug Pederson called a "lower-body injury."

2. Plenty of notable folks came out to watch practice today: Charles Barkley, Marvin Harrison, Freddie Mitchell, Stephen Tulloch.

Tulloch, who spent last season with the Eagles, retired this offseason. He's enjoying his retirement but was happy to check out practice on Monday. He owes a lot to Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Dolphins DC Matt Burke, the latter of whom was with Tulloch in Tennessee and Detroit also.

3. Carson Wentz got a ton of reps on Monday because the Dolphins didn't come all the way here to practice against themselves. He went to Alshon Jeffery a ton on Monday during 11-on-11s and 7-on-7s. Jeffery had one of his best days of the summer.

"He's very physical," Byron Maxwell said of Alshon Jeffery. "Getting off the line, you definitely need that too. Philadelphia, they've got three different receivers that can do different things. You've got [Torrey Smith] that can take you deep. Jeffery is a guy that can use his body well."

The best ball Wentz threw all day, though, came on a deep pass to Torrey Smith, who beat old friend Maxwell for a touchdown.

A couple plays later, Wentz hit Jeffery for a touchdown after Maxwell was beaten again. On that one, it looked like Maxwell might have expected safety help that never came.

4. Maxwell and Kiko Alonso had rough returns to their old practice fields. Maxwell was beaten for three touchdowns, two to Smith and one to Jeffery, while Alonso was beaten on a quick pass to Darren Sproles near the goal line.

5. If you were hoping to hear about fights or chippy play between the two teams on Monday, it didn't really happen. The closest it got was when Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Stills jawed a little bit after a completed pass to Stills from Jay Cutler. Nothing came of it. Although, Jenkins is the odds-on favorite to get in a fight from the Eagles' defensive players. For the offense, Jason Kelce gets the nod.

6. Cutler had a pretty good day against the Eagles' defense. After practice, the quarterback who the Dolphins lured out of retirement said he feels pretty rested after joining the team late, looked like it. He was whizzing footballs into his receivers. He kept finding Jarvis Landry in the end zone during red zone work.

7. The Eagles ran a fake field goal on Monday! Donnie Jones took the snap from Jon Dorenbos and rolled right before hitting Brent Celek. It worked!

8. Nick Foles has looked really good since coming back from his elbow injury. It's almost shocking how much better than Matt McGloin he is. On Monday, he kept connecting with Trey Burton. That could be something to watch if Foles ever plays in a game this season.

9. Nelson Agholor made a great catch with a Dolphins defender blanketing him. It was probably the catch of the day.

10. Wentz's arm isn't showing any signs of fatigue after a long summer. He absolutely threw a rocket to Mack Hollins. The laser of a throw made a loud sound as it collided with Hollins, who went to the ground to catch it. It was a perfect throw where only Hollins could get it.

Stupid Observation of the Day: Yes, Kiko Alonso was of course rocking a crop top on Monday.

Byron Maxwell using trade from Eagles as motivation; Kiko Alonso not so much

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Byron Maxwell using trade from Eagles as motivation; Kiko Alonso not so much

Byron Maxwell doesn't have any doubts about why the Eagles traded him last offseason. 

"It was obvious," Maxwell said on Monday afternoon. "[The Eagles] needed a quarterback." 

Maxwell and Kiko Alonso are back in town at the NovaCare Complex this week for the first time since both were sent to Miami in a deal that moved the Eagles from the 13th to the 8th spot in the 2016 draft. The Eagles eventually packaged that 8th pick to move up to 2 to take Carson Wentz. 

So, yeah, Maxwell is kind of right. The Eagles needed a franchise quarterback and trading him and Alonso was the first step in making that happen. 

That hasn't changed the fact that Maxwell uses the trade as motivation. 

"Yeah, I would be lying if I told you I don't want to do better than the Eagles do," he said. "I do. I want to win more games than them. I want to prove them wrong."

If he knows the Eagles traded him to get a franchise quarterback, how does he still use the trade as motivation? 

"That's just what I do," he said. "You can call it petty -- I don't know what it is. But that's just what I do, how I feel. That's just realistic. I know what it is but I still want to do better than my old team. I don't think no player wants the team to get rid of you and then they do better, to be honest with you."

The Eagles gave up on Maxwell just one year into his six-year, $63 million contract and gave up on Alonso just one year after trading the franchise's leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, to get him. 

Both went to Miami and ended up being big defensive pieces of a Dolphins team that went 10-6 and made the playoffs. 

While Maxwell uses being traded as motivation, Alonso said he doesn't. The middle linebacker of few words and extended blank stares, just went with the flow when he was dealt to Miami. 

How does Alonso look back at his year in Philly? 

"Obviously, it wasn't the year we wanted," he said. "It is what it is."

For Alonso, his trade to Miami was the second time he was moved in two years, so he said the second trade wasn't very surprising. Maxwell said he was surprised by the move but thought something was up when he didn't hear from any of his coaches after the 2016 season ended. 

Still, both probably should have seen getting moved as a possibility, especially after the man who brought them to town, Chip Kelly, was ousted before the end of the regular season, and in a plot twist worthy of a movie, his biggest nemesis, Howie Roseman, was given back his power. 

"I didn't really get caught up in that," said Alonso, who still has a good relationship with Kelly, whom he also played for at Oregon. "I was just like, just go with the flow. They traded me, I was like 'alright, I'm going to Miami.'"

Both Maxwell and Alonso still have friends on the Eagles' roster, so they said it was good to catch up with them at Monday's joint practices. But Maxwell said he didn't really have any special feelings as he returned to Philadelphia. He spent just one season here and it wasn't really one to remember. 

Both also got a chance to face Wentz -- the player the Eagles eventually parlayed their trade into getting -- on Monday morning. Maxwell admitted he does pay attention to Wentz's progress because, as he already admitted, he wants to have more success than the Eagles. 

Of course, Alonso didn't see it the same way. 

"Naahh," he said.